When we become doulas, we want to make sure we are the best doula we can be. Sometimes, this leads to comparing. However, there are many types of amazing doulas. You can be uniquely you while still following these x rules for being a great doula.
Being a doula is not about fitting into a cookie cutter. It is about being able to support clients in a way which feels holistic and judgement free. Following these basic rules can help you be a great doula.
#1: Follow Evidence to be a Great Doula
Doulas are professionals. As such, it is vital we remain a true professional source for evidenced-based care and support. When you train and certify with the International Doula Institute, you can know for sure you have a foundation in evidence.
As you continue to provide support to your clients, make sure you are referencing evidenced-based sources. Keeping up to date with evidence is also important. Attending pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and lactation specific workshops, conferences, etc., are great ways to continue your education as a doula.
You can also keep up to date by reading newly published medical journals, reading evidenced-based blogs (citing sources), and reading books published by professionals in our field.
#2: Be Comfortable Simply Holding Space
We learn all the comfort techniques, evidence, etc., and we want to put them all into practice. When clients hire us, we want to make sure they see our service as valuable. This can make it tempting to be very hands on, to try lots of physical comfort techniques, etc.
While there are clients and times where lots of hands on is needed, there are also plenty of times you simply need to hold space. The ability to be present holding space is just as valuable as a double hip squeeze.
What is holding space? It is a conscious act of being present, open, allowing, and protective of what your clients need in each moment. It means no judgement about any decisions they make either. Sometimes you will be hands on and holding space, other times you are simply present holding space.
#3: Include The Partner and Support System to be a Great Doula
Yes, the one in labor is the one who is front and center. They need all the support and care. However, when you are a great doula, you are able to include the entire birthing family.
You can coach their support person or partner in providing physical comfort techniques. Providing encouraging words, practical support, and reassurance to partners is a huge component of caring for the whole family.
Welcoming a baby is a big moment for the whole birthing family. It is important the whole family feel included in the experience.
#4: A Great Doula is Reliable
Pregnancy and birth are unpredictable. However, your support should not be. To be a great doula, you need to be reliable.
Make sure your contract clearly lays out when you begin being on-call, how long until you will arrive when called, and how long you stay. Then, make sure you are always available to meet those agreed upon obligations.
That said, life can be unpredictable. Obviously, if you have the flu, you cannot safely expose a new family. This is why it is vital to always have a backup doula in the event of an emergency. It is also important your clients be aware of what constitutes an emergency and who will be there in that case.
#5: Be Confident and Humble
It takes wisdom to balance confidence and humility. As a doula, it is important you be confident in your understanding of birth and evidence. However, it is also important to be humble in your interactions with clients and medical professionals.
While doulas are well trained and educated in birth, we are still non-clinical. It is important we do not act outside our scope nor advise clients to not follow medical advice. We can be confident in sharing general, evidenced-based information so clients can make informed decisions. However, we must never tell a client what they should do.
And of course, be yourself! Your clients have chosen to work with you for a reason. Trust you’re the right doula for them.